We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers (1 Thessalonians 1:2, ESV).
Name one thing you “always” find yourself doing, something that’s “constantly” part of your day.
How often would giving thanks be an honest answer to that?
Perhaps you’d say you’re constantly talking on the telephone. Or constantly busy, constantly working. Maybe you feel as though you’re always thinking about the future, making plans for what you hope to see happen next, a mixture of both worry and optimism. You may always be glued to the news, or picking up after your kids, or stuck in traffic trying to get home. What are your own particular always things?
According to Scripture, one of the most important things to be always, constantly doing is being thankful. Not in a sappy-greeting-card, rose-colored denial of reality. Not in a pretentious attempt to keep from admitting that life can be hard and upsetting. To be giving thanks always and constantly means simply maintaining an overall, ongoing attitude of thanksgiving . . . because gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for living. It is often the difference between being overwhelmed by what just happened and being excited about what’s just ahead.
You may counter, however, that this kind of heart and mind is practically impossible to keep up. Not everything is easy to be happy about. Not every week comes equipped with enough suitable “gratitude” material to work with. But one of the secrets found in Paul’s words to the Thessalonians and (more importantly) his example toward them is how he deliberately thanked God “always for all of you.” In order to stay constantly thankful, you should routinely be giving thanks for the people in your life.
All the people in your life.
Not just your favorite people—the ones who are so much fun to be around—but also those whose names you don’t particularly enjoy seeing pop up on your phone. Not just your most encouraging leaders and coworkers, but also those who push you into doing more than seems reasonable, perhaps far beyond your comfort zone or capability. Not just people from your own generation and culture who are easier to relate to, but also those who are a little harder to get to know and understand. Not just your closest friends and family members, but also those who, for whatever reason, insist on being your enemies.
Relationships sour when we focus on faults; they flourish when we keep the thankfulness fire burning. Nothing comes much easier to us than first noticing, then rehashing, the parts of someone else’s comments or personality style that make them almost intolerable to deal with.
But in order to be the kind of person that you yourself truly want to be, you must constantly stay reminded that God is sovereign over the universe, totally in control of everything. Nothing comes into your life that He doesn’t allow; nothing comes into your life that He won’t transform into something for your good. That’s why you can be thankful to Him for how He’s using your boss, your brother-in-law, your mom, or a former spouse—difficult and demanding though they may be—to shape you into the person you’d never become otherwise, without them.
Few things dilute and drain our hope more quickly than ungratefulness. That’s why you can never miss a day. Do it always. And never miss an opportunity. Do it for everybody.
This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.